Two Mid Sussex teams have landed the plum draws in the first round of this season’s Sussex Women’s Challenge Cup.
Wivelsfield Green, from the South East Counties Women’s League Division One West will host Premier League Brighton, who have won the County Cup 14 times in its 20-year history.
And neighbours Burgess Hill are at home to the current cup holders Chichester City.
It’s a terrific draw for Wivi, who have just moved from their base in the village to Haywards Heath.
But it’s also a daunting one – Brighton’s 17-0 thrashing of Worthing Town in last season’s competition sparked an intense debate on Twitter and here on Sent Her Forward over the impact of heavy defeats.
Since then, Brighton’s squad has been considerably strengthened, with 11 players following Marrs from his previous club, Gillingham, who just missed out on winning the league last season.
Wivi, meanwhile, finished mid-table in the SECWL, four levels below their County Cup opponents.
They, too, have strengthened in the close season, though hardly on Brighton’s scale.
Chairman Brian Holmwood, who told Sent Her Forward last season that Wivelsfield’s 12-0 hammering at the hands of Chichester City in last year’s County Cup had had a major impact on their league season, quipped: “It could be a long afternoon for us.”
Burgess Hill, who ironically have vacated Hanbury Stadium, where Wivi will now play, and relocated to Leylands Park, will host Chichester City, who broke new ground for the competition last season when they beat Brighton 3-0 in the final.
Hill are in the SECWL Premier Division, two levels below Chichester, who are competing in the FAWPL Division One South West.
Lewes, the only other Premier League team in Sussex, return to the competition this season, but say they will field their Development team, which will be competing in the FAWPL Reserves League.
They have a first-round bye, along with Eastbourne Town.
Only 14 sides are taking part in this season’s competition – a disappointing show when the game appears to be making so many strides in the county.
But it may be in part a reflection of the concern of some clubs about the difference in ability between the grassroots teams and the cream of Sussex – the only three sides perceived to have a realistic chance of winning it.
Sussex FA women’s development officer Clare Nichols confirmed this week to Sent Her Forward that plans were due to be considered to win back disaffected clubs and revealed a secondary competition for those knocked out in the early stages was still possible this season.
But she warned: “We need to guarantee that people are going to enter it. Three years ago they had both (competitions) and the argument was that there weren’t enough teams to run two competitions.”
The first-round ties are due to be played on Sunday, October 19.
|Seahaven Harriers v Lancing|
|Crawley Wasps v Adur Athletic|
|Burgess Hill v Chichester City|
|Wivelsfield Green v Brighton|
|Eastbourne v Rottingdean Village|
|Hassocks v Worthing Town|
|Byes: Eastbourne Town, Lewes|